Parliament: Schools chief clashes with MPs over style

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The Independent Online
CHRIS WOODHEAD, the Chief Inspector of Schools, was yesterday challenged by MPs about criticism that his personal style is too confrontational.

Critics have suggested that his forthright views about teachers and schools depress the profession's morale. But Mr Woodhead told the Commons Education Select Committee that the work of his office (Ofsted) in discovering and publicising schools' weaknesses had helped raise standards. Morale was not helped by drawing a veil over mediocrity, he said.

The chief inspector, who was appearing before the committee days after he had to apologise for remarks about teacher-pupil sexual relationships, said his "blunt" style would not change. "It is necessary that the message which emerges from inspections should be communicated with absolute clarity," he argued.

"That is what I have tried to do. The issue of polemic and being confrontational is very much a matter of subjective judgement. But over five years we have seen significant progress in schools. I am not saying I am responsible for that but the fact is that Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] has identified issues clearly and has contributed to the national debate and helped the rise in standards."

Malcolm Wicks, the committee's Labour chairman, suggested that there were two Ofsteds.

The first was the "calm process" in school where teachers met inspectors and generally accepted their judgement. "And then there is another Ofsted, which is about blood and thunder and guts, and is about giants stalking the land and firing at each other."

Mr Woodhead dismissed a suggestion that a supervisory board would make Ofsted more accountable, arguing that he was answerable to Parliament, through this committee, to the Prime Minister and to the Public Accounts Committee, and a board would "blur' his personal responsibility.